As it’s still very early to tell what will happen in this year’s playoff race, things are coming together in a way very similar to when the club won it all in 2010.
As I’ve mentioned in another article, the team now features different names at different positions, but there is a distinctive magic brewing in San Francisco that it saw only two years ago.
Now, when I see how well the Bay Area’s other professional baseball team is playing across the bridge in Oakland, it makes me think of ‘89 World Series, when the Giants were swept in four games by the Athletics, following the notorious earthquake. These two teams are both well equipped for the playoffs, and if both were to meet, of course, only one can win, and I have a firm belief that that team will be the San Francisco Giants. Payback time. It also happens to be the ten year anniversary of when we lost the World Series to the then Anaheim Angels. More payback? I think so.
The Giants have been through many ups and downs this season, though. From Brian Wilson being put on the shelf during their home opening weekend in the first month of the season, to the revelation that has been Marco Scutaro. From Angel Pagan’s monster months of May and August, to Pablo Sandoval’s dual DL stints, things did not always go the Giants way.
To make things even tougher, on August 15th, Melky Cabrera was suspended fifty games for using performance enhancing drugs, and things looked bleak for the teams playoff chances. Fortunately, this fueled them to prove he wasn‘t the sole reason they were doing so well, and have been on a 30-15 tear since his absence. They also do not plan on using him after five playoff games, and it appears the club has put Cabrera behind them altogether.
As it stands, the Giants are National League West champions for the second time in three years, and couldn’t be in a better position to dominate. Though their bullpen has actually gotten better as of late, it’s still a bit of an issue, namely Santiago Casilla.
He hasn’t been particularly terrible, but he’s really wish-washy. He was great in the beginning of the season, and looked like he was starting to regain his form after missing some time in early August, due to a blister problem, but he hasn’t been all that effective in recent weeks. I actually (for once) have more confidence in Jeremy Affeldt than I do in Casilla. This must turn around, as he will be an important arm in the Giants post season run.
When I think of why a team wins, there are many reasons. But the 2012 Giants have more heart than any other team out there, and that is an intangible that most teams unfortunately do not have. What are the other reasons this team is going to win it all? Let’s take a look:
- Marco Scutaro- I think there is a good chance that he will win a series MVP, because let’s face it, aside from Buster Posey, this man is on fire like no one else. He came over from Colorado having a mediocre year, but since joining this club, it’s as though he’s a different player. He’s been unconscious, now hitting .305 into the month of October, and is on an eighteen game hitting-streak. Also, in 59 games with the club, he’s driven in 44 runs, and scored 39 himself. He is going to be a major part of the team’s playoff run.
- Hunter Pence- At first we thought getting him might turn out to be a bust, but he slowly starting picking up the pace. Now, he is definitely heating up. He’s got 9 hits in his last 12 games, two of which were multi-hitters, and is actually tied with Buster Posey for most home-runs (24), and leads the team in RBI (104). He’s slowly starting to strike out less (he struck out 11 less times in September than he did in August), he’s walking a lot more, and his home-run production is way up (5 long-shots in September as opposed to only 2 in August).
- Angel Pagan- Boy did he find his stride once Bochy put him back in the lead-off spot. After two monster months in May and August, he’s cooled off a bit, so as the lead-off hitter going into the playoffs, he’ll be the table-setter in determining the teams success early on.
- Hector Sanchez- Though he technically made his major league debut last season, Sanchez has become a somewhat reliable bat in his first full season with the team. He’s descent at the plate, but the great thing about this young catcher is he is a more than viable option for Bochy when he tinkers with the lineup, while also giving Posey a rest, putting him at first base to keep his bat in the lineup. Did I mention he’s not the only switch-hitting Venezuelan on the team?
- Joaquin Arias- In August, he, along with Pagan, was one of the hottest hitters in baseball, holding a .417 average by going 25-for-60. He get’s a start every few days, and usually comes in during a double switch later in games, and has been one of our most surprising bats both starting and off the bench.
- He might be the most under-rated member of the squad. It’s no coincidence that he was one of the leaders to win National League Manager of the Year for a second year in a row, despite 2011′s poor results on the field. He’s still one of the most important pieces of this years team, and is a master at penciling in the right people for the right match-ups. Sometimes I’ll yell obnoxiously at the TV questioning Bochy’s decision to put in Casilla or Kontos when Romo or Lopez are doing perfectly fine, but most of the time he makes the right calls. There isn’t another manager in baseball I’d trust over this man, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ran away with the award after this amazing season.
Already a lock to win the National League batting title, Posey has put together an amazing season. He’s also the favorite to win the league’s MVP award, and is the hottest hitter on the planet right now, batting an astounding .338. He’s improved in every way since the team has returned from the All-Star break, and couldn’t be a better representative for this team’s heart, soul, and ability to come back to impress beyond expectations. He’s a special kind of player, and will definitely excel come playoff time.
Overall, the teams pitching has been top notch, and still ranks in the top ten in all of baseball. Tim Lincecum has certainly had a season he would half like to forget, but he’s been, for the most part, resurgent post All-Star break, going 7-5 in the second half. His velocity seems to be back, and he’s walking less batters, but his strikeout’s seem to be down. This is a tradeoff we can live with, as his overall performance is definitely getting better, and at the perfect time.
- Ryan Vogelsong has seemingly switched things around in his last two outings, going 6 strong innings in both appearances, surrendering only 1 run between the two. He makes a strong case to be kept in the rotation for the playoffs, but with the way Barry Zito has pitched all season, it will be a tough decision, as his performance has certainly earned him a spot. Madison Bumgarner is in a slight funk, but really has not warranted any mumblings of being left out of the rotation.
- As always, Matt Cain is solid. Let’s put it this way: In the last 66 innings he’s pitched, he has only allowed 17 earned runs, striking out a whopping 51 batters.
- With the Additions of Jose Mijares, Brad Penny, and Clay Hensley, the team has more depth when it looks to the bullpen, but Penny needs to pick up the slack. Hensley, however, has been much better recently. With the likes of Affeldt, Romo, Mota, Lopez, Casilla (who also needs a match lit under his rear), and Kontos, the new acquisitions will add to an already great roster of relief pitchers. If Brian Wilson were here, I think we could say that we still have one of the best bullpens in the league, if not the hairiest.
All the starters are coming to together at a perfect point before the playoffs, with only 1 more game to go. Ryan Vogelsong will get the ball for the final game, so this would be a perfect way to finish out the regular season. He would be the final piece in completely fixing this amazing staff. Who, in case you haven’t noticed, all have the ability to pitch deep in a playoff game, as witnessed in 2010, sans Barry Zito. They are the mantle piece of this organization, and have proved it time and time again. They also have the most experience in the playoff in recent years over a few potential first round opponents, so this will add to their advantage.
I also love the timely hitting. I know it’s a term that’s tossed around a lot and attributed to many clubs, but with this team, it is all about the clutch.
As I’ve said before, and will say again, these Giants can match up against any team in baseball, a result of their extreme kinsman-ship and pure talent–I don’t know where it came from, but this team just loves hitting and scoring with two outs on the board.
Overall, I don’t care what team you throw at these guys, they can beat ‘em all. Reds, Nationals ( I love this match-up, because they really don’t have any recent experience in the playoffs), Braves, Cardinals, A‘s (who as we speak have just won the American League West with a thundering blow against the Rangers), Tigers, Angels, Yankees, they can all be beat. Though most of the teams just mentioned have those one or two solid super-stars like Josh Hamilton, Joey Votto, Matt Kemp or Miguel Cabrera, this team has a full squad of by far above average players. Add in a pitching staff that can blow it by the best hitters in the game, sprinkle in a budding legend or two (Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval), stir with some clutch hitting served up by Ryan Theriot, Aubrey Huff, Joaquin Arias, and Marco Scutaro, and you have yourself a championship worthy team that is going all the way.
Not only did the team knock their rival Dodgers from the post-season race after last night’s win, but which opposing starting first baseman was there in game 162 in 2010 when we won it all? The same Adrian Gonzalez that will be there this year (still in blue) in our final game of the season. Coincidence? Probably, but I like to think otherwise.
Let’s go Giants.